Hunter Ford is from a prominent political family. He is wealthy, privileged, aloof, and most of the time comes across as a total jerk. He is also openly gay and his uncle, currently running for vice president, wants to trot Hunter out to the public to make his campaign seem more gay friendly. Given Hunter’s usual wild and antisocial behavior, Steve Camden is assigned to stick with Hunter throughout the three-week press tour. Steve is an image consultant, and his job is to make sure Hunter stays out of a trouble and puts on a good public face for the campaign.
At first Steve is totally put off my Hunter. Hunter is cold, entitled, commands a room, and is really only behaving for the money his uncle promised him at the end of the tour. Trying to keep him in line is a major undertaking. Yet part of Steve finds Hunter undeniably attractive. Not only is Hunter incredibly good looking, but there is a part of Steve that finds that aloof sneer and hint of bossiness a total turn on. And as he gets to know Hunter better, Steve realizes that Hunter’s public face is really only a shell put there to protect himself from past hurt and people using him.
The men are together almost continuously throughout the press tour and as they get to know one another, attraction grows between them. For the first time, Hunter truly opens himself to someone, as opposed to his usual nameless encounters. And Steve finds himself drawn to the real Hunter inside and gets to know him in a way few people do. But the demands of the tour are taking a toll on Hunter, especially when someone from his past makes an appearance and threatens his hard won stability.
Pride and Politics is the sixth book in Daisy Harris’ Men of Holsum College series and in it we revisit Hunter Ford, a character we have met previously. Hunter has definitely been the villain so far in the series (or at the least a not so nice guy), so I was really curious to see whether Harris would be able redeem this character enough to make us root for him in his own story. And I think she did so with great success. First off, as we watch Hunter it becomes clear that this is a guy who has been used by just about everyone. From his hookups who enjoy his power and dominance, to his family who uses him for political gain, he is pretty much surrounded by folks who want to take from him, but few who care about him. And as more of his past is uncovered, it is clear that his family really failed him when he was emotionally vulnerable and it is easy to see why he has hardened his heart. Yet Hunter is surprisingly willing to open himself up where Steve is concerned. There is none of the hardened resistance we often see in this type of story. As Hunter gets to know Steve and realizes he is someone he can trust to care for him and love him, he is very open with his feelings in return. He also makes a clear effort to make up for his past behavior. Overall I thought Hunter was a really interesting character and nicely layered.
In many ways this is really Hunter’s story and Steve is not quite as well developed, although I still found him quite likable. Steve is structured and well-mannered and focused on his task. He works as an image consultant to business people who have worked hard to make it and now need some help being putting themselves out there with other important folks. So he is not used to dealing with a client like Hunter, privileged, aloof, and a little entitled. Steve knows this job is a great opportunity and doesn’t want to mess things up. But I liked that he isn’t a total pushover either. Even though he is a bit out of his depth at first, Steve stands up for himself with Hunter and won’t let him get too out of hand.
What I enjoyed most about Steve and Hunter was the way their relationship subtly changes as they get to know one another and fall in love. When we start off, Hunter was cool, aloof, bossy, and superior. Steve didn’t mean much to him as anything other than a baby sitter and Hunter sort of tolerated him at best. And Steve’s job was to look out for Hunter and keep him out of trouble. He had no personal interest in Hunter’s happiness, merely a need to keep him in line and wearing a game face in public. What I found interesting is that as the men fall in love, outwardly their roles remain similar. Yet their entire dynamic changes. Steve starts to fall for Hunter and realizes he will do anything to make the man happy. What started as a job becomes a personal desire to take care of Hunter and really be there for him. Steve also realizes that Hunter’s bossy and aloof side is actually a huge turn on for him. He loves to be the submissive to Hunter’s dominant. Steve never expected to want that role and at first has a hard time letting himself have it. But when he finally let’s go, the two have some unbelievably hot encounters. And for his part, Hunter is perfectly willing to play the role for their sexual enjoyment, but outside of those games becomes a much warmer and open guy.
I did have a few small issues. First, I found the resolution to the problem of the bad guy from Hunter’s past to be a little pat and unrealistic. I also really liked the character of Steve’s sister, but I had trouble seeing what she was adding to the story. On one hand, I think it gives us some insight into Steve to know he has been raising his deaf sister. It is clear where his sense of responsibility comes from. But I am not sure whether the side issue about her at college and finding a boyfriend added a whole lot.
But overall I found this to be my favorite Holsum story of the series for sure. I really liked the behind the scenes feeling we get as we follow along with the political press tour. And Hunter and Steve and the relationship between them had a lot of depth and unique elements. The guys are super hot together and I loved their little bit of kinkiness worked in. And I think Harris does a great job redeeming an interesting character and helping us see the real man behind the facade. I think this is the best installment so far and I definitely recommend it.
P.S. I filed this under BDSM as well as Contemporary because Steve and Hunter have a bit of a mild dom/sub dynamic going on during sex. But this story is by no means hard core so please don’t let it scare you off, even if BDSM is not usually your thing.
Cover Note: Ok, Hunter is supposed to be incredibly fair and blond. And Steve is big and bearlike. I am willing to give the guy in the back a pass as Steve in a pinch, but we couldn’t find a single blond model to be Hunter? That said, this guy totally gets the Hunter attitude so that’s a definite plus.